Cannabliss!

Photo by Monica Donovan

Now that Vermont has legalized recreational cannabis use (starting July 1), I’ve no doubt that a number of folks will consider Vermont as a destination wedding locale of a very different kind!

Hemp touches adorn a sweetheart table at CynEvan Farm in Addison, VT. Photo by Monica Donovan

Certainly Vermont’s long agricultural history, our numerous artisans, and our deep commitment to social justice will likely make our canna-wedding options as beautiful, luscious, and personable as as the wedding pros of our Brave Little State can muster!

Already we have herbalists like Lauren Andrews of AroMed creating cannabis-based skin care products, food vendors like ZenBarn and Monarch and the Milkweed cooking up CBD-infused delicacies, a number of cannabis-friendly wedding venues, and a wide range of massage therapists and yoga studios that include CBD in their offerings.

Once legalization is official on July 1, no doubt recreational cannabis will enter the nuptial picture in full force.

Photos by Jewels Gray, Photography by Jewels

Still, rules are always changing and as Culture Magazine reported recently, vendors are going to have to bone up on the most current legislation to make sure they’re operating within the scope of the law.

In fact, the challenge in Vermont right now is that while we’ve legalized for personal and medical use, we haven’t yet created a commercial market with a complete system of taxation and regulation.

So, if you’re interested in a cannabis-themed wedding, want a little bud to smooth some jittery pre-wedding nerves, or hope to have smokables and edibles be part of your reception, it’s best to ask your vendors up front about what it will take to responsibly and legally incorporate cannabis products into your day.

As it happens, I have a day job with a cannabis advocacy and news organization called Heady Vermont, and am fairly well connected in the industry. Plus, there’s a growing overlap between wedding folks and the ganja world, and Vermont is already a pretty small place to begin with.

Which is all to say, if you questions, please ask! If I don’t know the answers, I’m probably one degree away from someone who does!

Jewels Gray, Photography by Jewels

Tips for Planning the Perfect Honeymoon

A fantastic guest post from the marvelous Aimee Lyons from DIYDarlin:

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a bride (or groom) to be. Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials! Wedding planning can be one of the most beloved and special times of your life, even if it does get a little hectic at times.

Even with all the excitement of planning your upcoming wedding, there’s another event you’ll also want to consider: your honeymoon. After your big wedding day, you’ll undoubtedly want a chance to relax and unwind as a couple. The last thing you want is to experience any unexpected stress while honeymooning with your new spouse.

Luckily, there are several time-tested tips for planning the ultimate, stress-free honeymoon:

Plan in Advance

I know you’ve already got a lot on your plate while planning your wedding. That’s completely understandable. However, it’s still important to put some thought into your honeymoon.

Pre-planning will help make your trip stress-free. Be sure to actually schedule some time for making honeymoon plans. Start planning as soon as possible and set realistic deadlines to keep yourself on track.

Talk to your spouse about what’s important to each of you. Do you want an island getaway or a cabin in the mountains? Do you want to fly to the other side of the world or is something closer to home more your style?

If you’re planning a destination wedding, you might want to have your honeymoon in the same location. Either way, your honeymoon is one of the first major decisions you’ll make together as a newlywed couple so it’s important to discuss it together.

Don’t Break the Bank

Once you have an idea of what you want in a honeymoon, it’s time to start budgeting. What can you afford? Do you have any loved ones who are gifting you money towards your honeymoon? If not, are there any unnecessary “extras” you could cut from your wedding budget to help afford the honeymoon?

You can plan a beautiful honeymoon on a budget. For instance, you could DIY some of your decor to help save money towards your getaway. If you have credit card points or frequent flier miles, you could put those towards the cost of flights and hotels. You might also check budget travel sites for great deals.

Take Care of Your Pets

If you have pets, make sure they are properly taken care of before you leave. For instance, you might ask a friend or relative to watch your dog or cat. If you can’t find anyone, you could always go with a reputable dog boarding facility.

Hire a Travel Agent

If planning a wedding and honeymoon simultaneously is just causing you entirely too much stress, it might be worth it to leave the planning to the experts. Even if you can’t afford a wedding planner, you could still hire a travel agent to assist you with the details of your honeymoon.

Speak with your agent about flying with an airline that offers a program to help offset your carbon footprint. Flying contributes to approximately 2% of the world’s emissions so your transportation options matter when it comes to global warming. The Smithsonian reports that the cost of offsetting is usually less than $25, meaning you can stay green and within your budget!

Plan for Emergencies

One last tip for planning a stress-free honeymoon: be sure to plan for emergencies, just in case. Have a backup plan in the event that something unexpected might happen. Print off a copy of your honeymoon itinerary and give it to a trusted loved one in case of emergency. If you need additional resources, this free planning checklist may help.

Your wedding and honeymoon are a very special time. You’ll be bonding with your new spouse, creating memories together as a couple that will last the rest of your lives. By following the advice listed above, you can craft a honeymoon that suits your personalities, has all of the relaxation, and none of the stress. That way, when looking back on your honeymoon photos in the years to come, you’ll be sure to remember what was really important during this time in your lives: all of the beauty, the laughter, and the love.

 

A Lid For Every Pot

I know that for many people, one of Life’s Great Fears is the notion that you might not ever find anyone to love. Either you’re afraid that you’re just so picky that you won’t meet anyone who lives up to your standards, or you suspect that you’re somehow so inherently unloveable that nobody is going to want to spend their life with you.

One of the benefits of being a wedding officiant, is that I get to meet LOTS of couples. Sometimes the people are folks I happen to find personally attractive and I completely understand how they could be so into each other. Sometimes, I meet people and think, “Well, not my cup of tea, but clearly they’ve got something going on.” And, sometimes, I’ve met folks and thought, “Wow. Do not get that. At all. But bully for them that they found each other!”

If you think about it, that’s generally how life works. Of course there are the people we run across who we think are paragons of perfection, and that’s fun for a bit. But more often, we have strange and surprising connections with people we never would have expected to meet or know or love. And those connections tend to be more honest and enduring.

When I ask couples what they love about each other, what intrigues me the most is that they rarely spend much time talking about things we think we’re supposed to care about: physical attractiveness, popularity, worldly success, power.

Instead, mostly what they talk about is how they feel when they’re with the other person. I can’t tell you how often someone has said, “I’ve never met anyone more generous and giving” or “I feel so safe and understood when we’re together” or “We communicate really well with each other.”

Qualities of personhood and how the couple interacts and moves through life together are the traits that inevitably win the day.

I’ve also met couples who’ve loved each other as much through transformations of gender as changes in career.

Which says to me that if we’re looking for love, focusing on who you are as a human being – a giving, loving, flawed, curious, compassionate, growing, quirky human being – is far more important than living up to impossible standards of perfection.

So revel in who you are. Be unabashedly, unashamedly who you are. Give, listen, care, feel, and show up fully in your life. Of course there are no guarantees, but with that much unfettered being of yourself, you’re likely to find someone with whom you share just the right amount of everything.

Special Guest Party Tips!

I recently got a surprise email from Aimee Lyons of Diydarlin.com asking if she could write a guest blog entry offering up some tips, advice, and resources for planning and attending bachelorette and bachelor parties on a budget. Who am I to look gift words in the mouth? So here, from MIz Aimee Lyons, are some lovely pearls of pre-wedding wisdom:

Photo via Pixabay

6 Tips for Planning a Bachelorette Party Without Breaking the Budget

It’s always an honor to be asked to stand up for a friend on her wedding day. But between buying a bridesmaid dress, paying for travel, and springing for a gift, supporting a friend can quickly become an expensive, albeit important, endeavor–often costing upwards of $1,000.  Add planning a bachelorette party, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But with a little planning and organization, you can throw an unforgettable party without the hefty price tag. Here are six ways to cut down on cost without sacrificing quality.

1. Prioritize

What’s important to your bride? A scenic location? Great food? A unique experience? Determine her number one priority. Next, send out a text or email to guests and discuss budget. What is everyone willing to contribute? (No one should break the bank in order to celebrate their friend.)

After you’ve created a budget, decide where to delegate most of the funds. For example, you might be able to spring for an Airbnb in a scenic location, but compensate by cooking most of your meals in your rental. Alternatively, if visiting a five-star restaurant is important to your foodie bride to be, opt for upscale cuisine in town, but share a cab, and grab drinks at a less expensive bar afterterward.

2. DIY as much as possible

If you’re hosting a soiree yourself, invest in inexpensive, high-impact decorations like metallic balloons or tissue paper flowers. (You can re-create a variety of styles here.) The key here is to make the space seem meticulously dressed by creating a wall of color and texture.

For food, delegate a different dish to each bridesmaid. If you don’t have time to make something from scratch (-or spend a lot of time in the kitchen) pick up side dishes and pastries from a local grocery store and re-plate them on nicer china. No one will know the difference.  If you’re opting for a less formal affair, host a backyard potluck and have everyone bring their favorite dish along with the recipe. Arrange the recipes in a booklet and give it as a bridal gift.

3. Hunt for deals

Sign up for services that alert you of special deals, and be on the lookout for fun outings, like inexpensive spa packages and wine tastings.

Consider talking to those in charge of booking about group deals. If you’re bringing a company a lot of business, they might be willing to cut you a deal.

4. Plan a Low-Key Destination Party

A celebratory ladies’ weekend is the perfect excuse to take time off and relax from the daily hustle. And the more participants, the less expensive the trip. Take a poll and determine how many friends would be willing to invest in a destination soiree. If you have enough advanced notice, you can find flights for relatively cheap or book tickets on a charter bus.

In order to cut down on stress, make sure you’ve sorted out passports and hotel reservations well in advance. And make sure you, other bridesmaids, and the bride to be take care of home security measures before you leave, especially if you’re posting about your trip on social media.

5. Opt for Cheap and Cheerful 

There are plenty of activities to explore that are inexpensive, fun, and outside the box. Roller disco, paintball, and karaoke are all relatively budget-friendly crowd pleasers. Or if you’re throwing a party for a crowd of introverts or homebodies, suggest a Netflix marathon. You’ll finally have an excuse to watch every season of The West Wing while sipping specialty martinis.

6. Consider a Boozy, Fancy Brunch

Late-night events can seem vastly overrated when compared to mimosas, doughnuts, and hash browns. Gather your fellow bridesmaids and head out to your favorite breakfast spot. Dress up for the occasion in your favorite sundresses and see if the restaurant will allow you to bring your own cake. Or better yet, order a mountain of pancakes or waffles to share! You could do a similar thing at home and host an elegant brunch.

Expensive doesn’t always = meaningful

With some imagination, teamwork, and a few trips to your local craft store, your bride to be will feel like an absolute queen! Do you have any tips for planning a party on a budget? Sound off in the comments.

Officiant Rules To Live By

Paula and Jon got married at The Old Lantern in Charlotte. It was a beautiful breezy day in early June and the grounds couldn’t have been prettier. Not to mention the couple couldn’t have been any cuter!

Given that it was one of the first weddings of the season, I forgot my cardinal rule of outdoor weddings: Don’t wear lip gloss. It’s very thick and sticky and if a breeze blows, you’re gonna be left with large amounts of hair stuck to your mouth. And it’s not polite to do a back-of-the-hand-wipe in the middle of a ceremony.

This is also a good rule for brides, bridesmaids, makeup-loving grooms, flashy wedding attendants of various genders, and anyone whose hair runs the risk of adhering to their kisser!

It also reminded me of the value of microphones at a wedding. It’s certainly a conundrum for the budget-conscious couple, as renting a mic and audio equipment – even from your DJ – could cost you several hundred dollars.

But sound gets swallowed up by wind and trees and sky – or water, if you’re doing it ocean/lake/river-front. Even a big room can suck up sound more than you might expect, and basically, there’s no getting around the fact that folks are going to hear things much more easily with a mic than without one – particularly any guests older than 45 or so.

You might have noticed how a lot of people start using reading glasses in their 40s. Turns out the same thing happens with your hearing. While that happens naturally, most modern adults also have tinnitus and other forms of hearing loss related to ambient or recorded noise.

While I’m a trained actor, I have a naturally light and high voice, which doesn’t carry outdoors over great distances. So much for Shakespeare in the Park…

If you want a mic on the cheap, and find out that you have a friend who’s got some audio equipment you can borrow, you’ll need to make sure to have all the necessary cordage and/or batteries, and someone who can trouble-shoot if anything goes wrong at the last minute. This stuff is notoriously finicky, and while I’ve worked with sound equipment a lot, it’s been as someone with a mic attached to her, not as a tech.

By the way, when I googled “giant ear horn” for the image above, I also came up with this very creative guy:

EXCLUSIVE: Kala Kaiwi from Hawaii just returned from Milan, Italy where he was awarded a Guinness World Record for the largest non-surgically flesh tunnels or earlobes. At 109 mm, his earlobes are so large that one could fit a hand through. Kala was born in Hawaii and trained in Las Vegas in 1999 he moved back to Hawaii to open Sin City Body Modification and Tattoo shop.

Picture by: Tim Wright / Splash News

 

 

Money money money money money money money…

I just learned that most couples underestimate the cost of their wedding by 40%, and that the average wedding costs $28,000.

Seriously. This is not necessary. I mean, if you’ve got cash to burn, go ahead, knock yourself out. Let it be lobsters, Belgian lace, and ice sculptures all the way. Load up on monogrammed M&Ms for your guests, hire videographers to make a film-quality documentary of the day, and escape the party in a triple-decker tricked-out limo. But this is not necessary.

Celebrating your love and commitment with heart, beauty, and community doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. You won’t be dishonoring yourselves or anyone else by not hiring gold-plated caterers.

I mean, I’ve been to those kinds of extravagant weddings, and they’re beautiful and impressive. But you can do just as well with a bunch of hay bales, a playlist, a potluck, and a cake baked by your best friend’s Mom. You won’t be any less married if you get your dress second hand and have it altered to fit. Heck, buy 3 wedding dresses at Goodwill for $150 and have a seamstress blend them together into an all-new creation!

Or make your own. This dress was made from plastic bags:
All I’m saying is what I say to high school writing students contemplating a career as a pen jockey. Don’t go into debt over this one. Get creative, ask for help, and remember that the most important thing is being lucky enough to find someone you want to spend your life with, and sharing that great fortune with the people you love the most.

The rest is just beautiful, fancy cake frosting.

Hearts Aflame, Minds Confused

Quote

H&A

Allison and Holly and baseball.

Following the Supreme Court decision allowing same sex marriage, my friends Allison and Holly have finally decided to get hitched, and asked me to perform the ceremony.

They’re both excited to be marrying each other, but more than a little conflicted about entering into the institution itself. As Holly said, “Let us know if you have any words of advice or things to keep in mind. We’re taking this very seriously yet we’re both ambivalent about marriage and not very sentimental, and I think that is bearing out in our approach.”

This is what I said in my reply:

I hear you about your conflicted feelings. I think the thing to remember is that this, first and foremost, is about the two of you. While you may not be very sentimental, you did happen to bump souls, and you’ve chosen, quite happily, to be together as lovers, friends, and life partners. You take joy in hanging out together. You have fun together. You adventure well together. You look awesome in tuxedos together. And you love each other in a way which gives you a universe of intimacy between you.

You’re both brilliant, powerful, seriously no bullshit women, and you have managed to entwine your lives in the same way that whole galaxies can interweave and pass through each other – with eddies of gravitational attraction and total transformation – while still remaining utterly intact. You have a Big Red Love, and that’s what really matters.

No, the government shouldn’t have Word One to say about the “legality” or “legitimacy” of relationships. Nor should any other kind of institution. No, our culture shouldn’t have its undies in a bunch about any kind of sexuality. It’s utterly absurd. But that’s just the way it is. Just like the fact that we have to pay taxes and allow ourselves to age and die with a modicum of grace, and accept the reality of Fox News and doofusy people like Scott Walker, Donald Trump, and the KKK.

Well, you know what? Fuck ’em. Fuck ’em all. Play the game. As Robert Heinlein said, rub blue mud in your bellybutton if that’s what everyone else is doing, and then get on with your lives. You’re at the fulcrum of a remarkable moment in our cultural history. And not only that, you’re an intimate part of it. So, enjoy it. Love each other. Eat cake. Party hard. And then get up in the morning and go do more great things.

It’s truly how I feel. Marriage is what happens between two people as they’re living their lives together, and very little to do with what happens at the altar, or as a consequence of a piece of paper being signed.

However it’s also a part of our culture and legal system and that emotional part of our lizard brain which barely knows from rational.

So, we follow our hearts and make our peace with the contradictions. Some of us make it legal. Some of us could not begin to be bothered.

But life is a hard and challenging and frequently struggle-filled business. Finding someone you love, who makes your toes curl and your heart sing and your life a little happier…that’s something to be celebrated one way or another. It just is.

Of What Cloth?

Dalai-Lama-Cardinal-1

Most of the time, when clients contact me, my “spiritual, but not religious” emphasis seems to make a lot of sense. Other times, folks have questions about what I am or am not willing to do in the context of their ceremony – or if there are state-level rules around what has to be in a ceremony.

In that vein, I got an email this morning from a prospective bride named Tracy asking me: “As far as religious aspects of the ceremony are there restrictions? I probably would just do a bible verse etc, but didn’t know if you couldn’t mention certain things or give a blessing.”

It’s a great question – and a terrific opportunity for me to clarify a number of things about Vermont’s wedding laws:

  • Vermont has no waiting period, blood test, or witness requirements.
  • Vermont has no rules about what can or cannot be in a ceremony – or if an actual ceremony even needs to happen. As long as the license is signed, you’re legally married.

As for MY rules, I really don’t have any. My job is to help couples have the wedding they want, and to serve that cause. I’ve had folks want a fully Bible-based ceremony, I’ve had people who didn’t even want God in the same zip code. I’ve had Pagans, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Sci-Fi Nerds (which, in fact, DOES count as a religion), Tea Aficionados (also a religion), Dog Lovers (DEFINITELY a religion) and pretty much every shade of what I’d call Tolerant Christian.

I’m pretty happy to read whatever couples want and include whatever rituals (or musical numbers) they feel they need to call their ceremony complete. The only place I think I’d draw the line would be ritual animal sacrifice and blood-drinking. So go forth and be who you are! I’m happy to come along for the ride!

Seasick At The Boat House

This is a performer named Seasick Steve. I thought it'd be nicer than a shot of someone yerking off the side of a boat.

This is a performer named Seasick Steve.
I thought it’d be nicer than a shot of someone yerking off the side of a boat.

I just performed the wedding for Steve and Jennie (names changed to protect the innocent and/or embarrassed) at the Burlington Boathouse.

The rehearsal was a pretty smooth affair with plenty of loving, friendly people and the kickiest little flower girl named Madeline – a child considerably older and wiser than her 4 years might belie.

Because the bride and groom were also on the young side (early 20s), before I left, I made a point of reminding them NOT to party too hard that night. I’ve had pasty, hung-over couples approach me at the altar before. And I can tell you that whether or not YOU think it’s obvious that your parents are holding up your rode-hard-and-put-away-wet self as you stagger down the aisle, for the rest of us, it is, shall I say, rather…apparent.

Anyway, they assured me they’d be well behaved. However, when I got to the Boathouse the next afternoon, Steve was off in a corner with his head between his knees. His team of Fellas claimed that someone must have slipped Steve a roofie the night before, as they really hadn’t had that much to drink.

I went over to Steve, who also swore up and down (or rather left and right – up and down were more than he could manage) that he hadn’t been on a pre-show bender.

Whether or not that was entirely the case, what was abundantly clear was that poor Steve was a raging bundle of nerves, and could barely sit up straight, much less pull his shaky, tuxedoed bod to his shiny, black-clad feet.

Kai, the Best Man, did a heroic job of trying to keep Steve focused, but Our Groom had the Requisite Hurl into a garbage can anyway. Actually, it was a recycling bin. Something about which the staff at the Boathouse were none too pleased.

I immediately directed Kai to go get some gum or breath mints, as there was no way I’d have Steve kissing Jennie with that particular mouth! Kai wisely managed to come back with gum and a whole bottle of Listerine, which seemed a sage and prudent choice.

As the Bridal Party and guests started arriving, Steve and I moved to the space near the altar, with Steve leaning against the railing, only making a feeble attempt at complete verticality. Conscious of issues around post-modern gender equity and personal identity, I didn’t want to tell him to Man Up, though I was sorely – sorely – tempted.

Finally, searching for some inspirational narrative that would bring Steve firmly to his feet, I said, “Look! Michael Jordan won an entire playoff game with the flu and a 105 degree fever. YOU can stand tall for six minutes and get married. Do it for Jennie.”

flu-game

To his credit, Steve did – quite literally – rise to the occasion, though his vows were spoken in a barely audible whisper. To be fair, though, so were Jennie’s.

Honestly, I think they were both just terrified. And I get it. When I got married I had all kinds of questions about what being married would mean. What would it mean to my career and my identity as a woman? What kind of choices would this most important choice lock me into making for years to come? I spent several weeks before my wedding completely flipping out. So, I have a great deal of sympathy for both of them. I really do.

All those nerves, all those doubts – they’re all completely normal and natural. Though I’d encourage anyone struggling with any level of premarital jitters – or concerns of any kind – to go get help. Don’t suffer through your fears alone. Find someone to talk to – preferably a counselor or other neutral party who doesn’t have a huge agenda about the outcome of this, or any other part of your life.

It’s really ok to be scared. But you don’t have to go it alone.

Kat From The Kingdom

A woman who, like me, loves boots, Ben&Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy ice cream, Jon Bon Jovi, and an excess of exclamation points!!!!

My awesome friend Kat at Kingdom Wedding Photography has been spending the slow winter season spiffing up her blog, and interviewing other wedding vendors about their business and experience.  This week, she was kind enough to interview me!  And she asked great questions, including:

What is your favorite thing about what you do?
I pretty much love everything about it. I adore meeting new people at such a significant moment in their lives. I enjoy making the process of putting together the ceremony as easy as possible. I really like going to places around the state that I never would have seen. I get a huge kick out of dressing up in the color scheme of each wedding (it’s the actor in me – I love costumes) and, of course, actually performing the ceremony. It’s all just a blast!

What do you think sets you apart from others?
I’m a good listener, so I can really take in what a couple wants for their ceremony. I’m a deft writer, so I can craft something that’s elegant, artful, meaningful, personal, and also funny. I know how to create sacred space without being too sentimental or sanctimonious about it. I’m a very experienced performer, so I know how to take the stage and run the show while still keeping each couple at the center of their own wedding. Plus, I just don’t get rattled. So no matter what happens – be it animals, babies, weather, in-laws, or the bride passing out – I can stay focused and in charge without turning anything into a crisis.

What’s the one thing you wish everyone knew about you or your business?
Ha! What a funny question. I’m not sure. Hire me and find out…

Read the whole interview here.